Part 5.4: Final Piece

I began my final piece by choosing two subjects which I could not decide between and started with two pieces of A1 paper (knowing larger scales work best for my method of working). It was my hope that as I moved through the creative process with both pieces, it would become more apparent to me as to which piece should become my final piece and which was more successful than the other before finally settling on the one final option.


I decided from my experimentation that the strongest result was from that of a surface of newspaper and also the ink as I found these the most appealing, however, I later changed my mind and decided from looking at earlier experiments that I actually preferred found papers due to their cleaner black and white appearance as opposed to the grey of the newspaper. I also then decided that using tea staining would create even more texture than the ink due to the way in which ink appeared to dry smoothly, whereas tea staining would dry where it lay, creating a marbled effect on the found papers.

Once this surface was ready to work on, I decided to draw a grid on both pieces to assist me with laying my chosen subjects down roughly but accurately. I then removed the grids and outlined the subjects in charcoal to assist in being able to see it easier whilst working into the pieces.

It was at this stage that I realised that the second of my pieces was not really working. I found that the human subject only reached halfway up the page with the tree subject covering the remaining half of the page. I felt that if I were to continue, the tree would become more excess space than interesting detail, as well as creating a bit of a battle with the human subject to claim the foreground of the piece, when I would actually prefer the human subject to be the main focal point and the tree important but secondary in the background.

Initial Detail of the Human Subject in Biro

Face, Hair and Hands

Detail of face, hair and hands

I decided to begin filling in the detail of the human subject by using black biro, as I knew there were a few very fine details which needed to be considered very delicately (the face, hair and hands) and my earlier experiments have led me to understand that biro is my strongest tool in this area.

When working on these areas, I decided not to draw the actual shapes I could see, but the shadows, patches of tone and the contrasts within them all as I wanted them to be as deep and as strong as possible to create depth and the sense that the human was quite three-dimensional. With regard to the hair, I decided that the biro was the strongest tool for the base shape and flow of the strands as I could manipulate the direction and shape of my lines to create a realistic representation, but also to help assist the viewer in distinguishing the hair from the deep shadows and the rolls which make up the bun at the back.

Arms, Torso, Buttocks and Leg

Once I had completed the finer detailed areas, I moved on to the remaining areas of the human subject’s body and created subtle marks and cross-hatching to show the movement of the skin over the underlying bones and muscles to create depth and shape within the flat surface and to subliminally inform the viewer the direction the lines are moving in and the roundness this adds.

Detail of arms, torso, buttocks and legs

Initial Detail of the Tree Subject in Biro

I then began using the same method with the biro for the tree as I had the human form, to stay light and delicate, but to simply give the tree its rounded form by subliminally showing the direction the lines are moving in.

Detail of Tree Subject

From here, I added a layer of charcoal to the tree and sealed it with pastel fixative.

I was quite surprised by the changes which developed in the marks created with the pen from the application of the fixative as it seemed to make the lines bleed somewhat and bring out the different under-layers of colour used to build the ink to its black hue. I actually rather enjoyed the surprise result and decided to try and work with it.

I later returned to my piece, having worked in stages throughout the development, deciding that the single layer of charcoal on the tree was effective, but needed more work to show a differentiation between the ground, the roots and the trunk of the tree, but also to stop the human subject from appearing to float in the air.

Additional Media Usage

I then moved on to adding several additions to the piece.

Firstly, I used a putty rubber to redact some of the charcoal to increase the definition around the edges of the collaged paper with the intention of this to subtly stand out as though real bark would itself. This did not really appear to work so well as the layer of charcoal was actually rather thin in the first place, so not much was lifted. There was also the matter that I had used the pastel fixative a little too prematurely, in hindsight, so I decided to rethink my methods and come back to the piece at another time with fresh eyes.

When I returned to the piece, I used the black biro to work back through the piece to create differentiated lines to break up the single directional lines previously created and to deepen some areas I had already created, but felt I had overlooked slightly.

Next, I added some black marker marks to the piece and finally a layer of black acrylic paint pens as I liked how the layers of black lines seemed to deepen and created that layered effect my tutor had tried to get me to develop earlier in the course. I also worked on creating a definition in my grounds by bringing a sense of grass to the area beneath the model and at the base of the tree’s roots.

I used the acrylic marker to also make apparent the different edges of the paper I had used to create a collage, within the tree to emphasise the bark. I felt doing this would be a much more natural way of creating the bark as opposed to trying to create my own example of the same. I felt it rather fitting to emphasise the use of paper in a piece expressing a love and appreciation of trees and the extent to which we humans rely upon the same.


Once I had finished my piece, I took a while away from it to be able to see it with fresh eyes before returning to be able to reflect without continuing and potentially overworking the piece.

I think I could potentially added a little more shadow to the human subject’s flank on her right-hand side to assist in grounding her further and showing the form of the root on that side also. I think I could have worked further with the bark markings to create shadow to one side and add more texture as the result shown above appears a little cartoon-like.

Finally, I think there could perhaps be some excess space within the piece which could be removed and the piece cropped to have more of an impact (as shown below), however, I do think the space in the result above does add to the grandness of the tree.

Reflection Cropping Idea

Part 5: Artist’s Statement and Questions

Artist’s Statement: Combining the Human Form with that of Trees, using Mixed Media, Line and Tone

For this Part of the course, I began by working back and reflecting on my earlier exercises, projects, assignments, parts, research, tutor recommendations and feedback, as well as my own self-reflection, to be able to pinpoint key areas of strengths and to help me with developing an idea for my final piece.

From this reflection, I feel I have a very strong passion and greatest strength for, and in, the figure, but also with other more natural and organic forms, most notably trees.  Whilst I feel other exercises such as still life and architecture have been good for me to experiment with and develop my understanding of deeper aspects of the ‘rules’ within art, they do not hold much in the way of interest and intrigue for me, but also they do not appear to be as strong as the aforementioned topics, so I feel it now necessary to discard the ‘themes’, whilst still retaining the lessons learned (i.e. perspective and other technical skills) and producing a final, much stronger and more focussed piece.

After considering the reflective process and determining that my strengths lie in the human form and the organic form of trees, I began to question whether I could potentially combine the two and how strong I could potentially make the end result.  Perhaps I could create a piece of a person next to a tree in some form of pose?  Or maybe create a person in the form of a tree, or vice versa? 

I decided to carry out some research into artists who have worked in a similar sort of way to what I was considering doing. I came across several artists, whose work and my findings can be found by clicking here.

From this research and reflection, I decided that I would like my final piece to incorporate a human and a tree.  I decided I would create several sketches of different several compositions and then, from there, I would move on to reflecting on the medium experiments recently finished to find which options would work best for the strongest sketches.  I will then create a few drafts of the chosen sketch with the chosen media before moving on to creating my final piece.

The result I want to achieve is a combination of human and tree forms to really invite the viewer to appreciate the complexity of our closeness as humans to our organic foliage counterparts.  Neither humans nor plants could live without the other, thanks to the wonders of the universe and the science of photosynthesis; the trees provide us with shelter and food, but also – and most importantly – the clean air we breathe.  In turn, we are able to return the favour, so to speak, by assisting the trees in their growth by assisting with feeding and pruning etc. 

It saddens me that we abuse our silent counterparts so drastically, but then, without this, there would be no paper for me, as an artist, to convey my message.  It is a very complex circle of life, however, I think we need the trees and other plants much more than they need us and this ‘leaning on’ by humans is something I would hope to convey to my viewers.

Questions from Course Textbook

After finalising my Artist Statement, I decided to create a questionnaire holding the questions in the course textbook so that, as I am working through the different experiments, I am able to write down my chosen option and the reason why this was chosen, so I could quickly reflect and pinpoint when beginning my final piece, as well as any amendments and the reasons for these. I felt this would assist me when self-assessing at the end of this Part. The document used when creating my final piece can be seen below:

Part 5.3: Initial Conceptual Ideas and Studies

Surface and Media Experimentation

I decided to begin by creating some very brief and nondescript mixed media experiments, using the same ideology as used in a previous exercise, to refer back to once I had found my chosen subject. I created three pages using inks, masking fluid, pen, chalk, charcoal, masking tape and a range of found papers and then applied of these in a very child-like way, just to see how each interacts with the other.

From looking at these results, I think the chalk and charcoal as surfaces is very delicate and the colours work nicely together in a subtle way in the background. However, other than the charcoal, there does not seem to be many media which will work on top of these surfaces. The tea works really nicely as a base and I think would assist in keeping the image as a limited palette, especially if mixed with some of the found papers.

Initial Sketches of Chosen Subjects

Next, I decided to create some preparatory sketches to try to come up with different ideas for the composition, structure, layout, design, different angles, foreshortening, perspectives and technical aspects of my final piece.

Sketches of Human Subjects

I began by sketching several figures from a couple of books I have and also from the internet (the details of which can be found in the bibliography, below). I decided to use several different media to try and deduce which would be the most successful for the final piece.

Sketches of Tree Subjects

Next, I created some sketches of several trees from my local park, again using the different media to try and assist with deciding upon a chosen media for my final piece.

Combinations of Preferred Subjects in Biro

From here, I tried combining some of the figures with some of the trees to try and come up with the best choice for my final piece. I chose to work in biro for these sketches as I find it the most delicate, but quick and controlled for my method of working. I also realised from my initial sketches that my pieces in biro were my favourite with respect to the precision and fluidity created in them.

Different Media Experiments of Preferred Subjects

From the quick sketches I created, I decided that my strongest option would be to zoom in to the tree as close as possible to remove any excess space, but also to choose the two figures I found the most interesting to provide the best result and the most intriguing story and connection to my chosen question for this assignment.

With regard to the choice of media and surface, I tried to consider all of the artists I had come across both independently and from my tutor when creating the sketches and to try to include a mixture of several within my experiments, such as Moore’s expressive but controlled use of lines, Schiele’s delicate and subtle mix of colours, Redon’s use of contrast in his pieces of trees.

I found I really enjoyed the collage aspect and think it provides extra depth to the piece. I also like the monochrome and limited palettes I had created in the pieces and think I will have some fairly difficult decisions to make with regard to the final piece as to which options to choose.

I did find, however, that I struggled to choose between the two favourite poses as they were both appealing. Again, I feel this will be a difficult decision to contend with.

Part 4: Project 4: Structure

Exercise 1: The Structure of the Human Body

For this exercise, I decided to work firstly in black drawing pens, but they soon ran out of ink (I have more on order though! Phew!), so I then switched to black biro. Looking at the exercise again, I think I was meant to look at the muscles and such, however, I decided there would be far too much detail for me and chose to work on the different positions created from the view of the surface.

There are a few studies which work much better than others; for instance, I think the hands, arms legs and torsos work best overall, whereas there are a few which have gone slightly awry, including the top right foot, bottom right neck and central skull.

For the skull, I think I may have kept changing my angle unknowingly and, once I finally sat back to actually look at what I had put on the paper, I was then able to see where I had gone wrong, i.e. the left side of my skull being too stretched and the nose twisted slightly. I struggled with the teeth in the skull, however, I improvised by only creating the shadows in the ‘gum’ area and the natural gaps between the teeth. I thought the skull would be the easiest to recreate due to the big empty spaces and basic shapes, however, I actually think it was the hardest due to the lack of ‘instructions’ provided and indications as to where this and that should be in relation to other sections.

I think the issues with the feet and other such failed attempts was due to the fact they were created on a small scale, whereas when they were created on a larger scale, they appear more realistic. I definitely agree with my tutor’s comments (and hear them again and again) that to be expressive my style definitely suits a larger scale.

Research Point: Historic and Contemporary Artists use of the Body’s Underlying Structure

The results of this Research Point can be found by clicking here.

Exercise 2: Three Figure Drawings

For this exercise, I attended a local life drawing class. The model asked if there were any preferences as to positions, so I advised about my course and the requirements of the exercise. The model attempted to assist me as best she could, however, there were also other regularly-attending members who had worked in similar ways recently, so the model tried to compromise somewhat.

I tried to carry out quick observations of each pose in my sketchbook before moving on to a larger study with more time. For the quick studies in my sketchbook, I chose to work very fast to get as much information down on the page as possible, but to also try and see interesting areas which stood out with foreshortening aspects or deep contrasts in tones etc.

Standing Quick Close-up Studies

For the first study in this pose, I was aiming for the sketch to be more like that of the second study, however, I found I had drawn the main focus (the breast and chair contrasts) too small and continued to fill the page with the rest of the detail. I recreated this again, but zoomed in much more this time (second study). I then tried to zoom in on the foreshortening of the bent leg and foot, as well as the contrast in tonal values in the third and fourth sketches.

I definitely struggle with recreating a foot which appears to bend back and touch the leg when facing away from me. This is something I think I should really try and work on and to figure out why it is that they do not look realistic – perhaps it is where I have laid my shadowing?

I think the depth, sense of direction and flow of the flesh is well recreated in the drawing pen pieces, however, again, I have pressed too hard. I think these would perhaps be better in biro and in very concentrated areas with varying pressures.

I also think the wax crayon is much more capable of producing softer end results for me, but I also really enjoy the oil pastel as it allowed me to show such things as the slight cellulite in the leg, however, I definitely press too hard when creating the outline. This is something I need to work on also – that fine line between outline and cartoon.

Seated Quick Close-up Studies

For these studies, the model had moved to a seated position on a stool so, again, I tried to focus on foreshortening and tonal aspects. I did not find this pose as interesting as the rest, potentially due to the lack of twists in the body creating interesting areas?

Again, the wax crayon was the more delicate of the media used, though I do really like the contrast created by the oil pastel.

The model moved slightly throughout this pose, so some perspectives are slightly skewed – something I need to bear in mind when drawing from life.

I also think the study of the face was rather unsuccessful at showing the tilt in the model’s head. I think I needed to increase the size of the size of the chin and reduce the size of the forehead perhaps?

Overall, I think it becomes apparent that when I have to work quickly, I focus more on getting the information down than ensuring it is in the most accurate position etc.

Lounging Quick Close-up Studies

The model then moved to a lounging position and I really enjoyed this one. There were several areas of interest to me and in which I was able to show the twists and turns of the flesh over the bones below.

Again, the model moved slightly in this pose, however, I think I was slightly better at correcting my studies to suit.

The third study is by far my favourite due to the contrasts between the flesh and shadows. I think I have managed to accurately measure the feet and have placed them in a believable position.

Longer Studies

Looking back at all of the studies created, both large and small, for this exercise, I think I have a long way to go to being able to create life in the face and to prevent it from looking too flat. With more time, I think I could have concentrated on the tonal contrasts to build the detail of the face up.

Looking at these studies and larger pieces, I can see that I still apply a lot of pressure when working rather quickly. I wonder whether this is something I can actually learn to control or whether this is just who I am? I actually really enjoy putting emotion into my work and the deep pressure and darker marks created have a certain ‘release’ effect on me. However, I am determined to show my tutor that I CAN reel myself in (even if I feel uncomfortable doing so) and have every intention of creating final pieces for this Part of the course which are of a much finer quality, taking time to stop and reflect several times and remembering my tutor’s comment of “less is more”!